Media Exhibition Formats & Playback Equipment

Preferred media formats and playback equipment for exhibiting media installation works are specific to the presentation environment and the artist's work. For example, for video components in media installation, a well-authored DVD is suitable for looped exhibition in a gallery space. Hard drive playback is also a viable option if rights are cleared for compression/digitization, and if the exhibition institution has the technical and financial resources to accommodate this exhibition mode. (For a more detailed discussion of hard drive playback, visit Computer-based Arts Equipment & Technical Issues). Explanations and recommendations regarding DVD and playback equipment are given below. For a more comprehensive discussion of media formats please visit the Formats section of the Resource Guide.

DVD (Digital Video Disc) is among the preferred formats for exhibiting single-channel works in a gallery or museum environment. DVD, introduced in 1995, is an optical disc storage technology that shares the same overall dimensions of a CD but has a much greater storage capacity. It uses MPEG2 compression to encode 720:480p resolution and full-motion video, and Dolby Digital to encode 5.1 channels of discrete audio. This also makes DVD an option for the exhibition of works with up to 5.1 channels of sound. DVD is not a failsafe medium; there are a number of important considerations to keep in mind.

There is an enormous quality spectrum when it comes to DVD authoring. A poorly encoded DVD will result in image and sound fraught with digital artifacts, unwanted pauses, unpredictable interruptions, and distortions. It is critical to allow for ample time to test, and potentially replace, your exhibition copy prior to installation. Another important part of DVD authoring is the loop function. If the work is to be looped (repeated continuously throughout exhibition hours), the DVD should be programmed to accommodate this during authoring.

There are many different manufacturers and types of DVD-R stock. The manufacturer and quality of your media stock will impact its compatibility with playback equipment and its overall reliability. Professional DVD players are designed to run continuously without failure. Most professional models have serial ports (RS-232) allowing computer control and synchronization of multiple DVD players and are also multi-standard, playing back both NTSC and PAL DVDs. In the near future HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc will be available; these discs will have much greater storage capacity, and thus will accommodate video encoded at higher rates.